ATTLEBORO, Mass. – The North Attleboro and Foxboro boys hockey teams each exited the New England Sports Village with a point after their division clash on Wednesday night, but understandably, each left wanting more.
For Foxboro, it was 3-1 third period lead that slipped away and a last minute power play that saw the potential game-winning goal clank off the post and stay out that prevented the full two points.
And for North Attleboro, it was a dominating stretch during the second period that saw everything but a goal, as well as a two-goal flurry in the third period that tied the game and swung momentum in their favor but came up short of a game-winner.
Nonetheless, it was a point apiece as the Rocketeers and Warriors finished deadlocked in a 3-3 draw.
“We should be going into that game knowing we can win the game,” said Foxboro head coach Mark Cedorchuk. “If they won that game, I felt like they would have stolen it from us. Our Achilles heel tonight was they scored two power play goals. We had our chances…but our penalty kill hurt us tonight. Overall I thought our defense played well overall, I thought all five guys played well and moved the puck up ice. And our forwards played well too.”
Foxboro never trailed in the contest, taking a 1-0 lead in the first period, jumping back ahead 2-1 in the second after the Rocketeers tied the game, and pushing the advantage to 3-1early in the third period.
North Attleboro, who was a bit unlucky to go down a goal in the opening period, knotted the score less than a minute into the second and then scored a pair of goals in less than a minute span in the third to tie the game.
Trailing by a goal going into the third, the message from head coach Ben McManama was clear.
“Very simple, it’s no secret…’This will be the most important 15 minutes of our season,’” McManama said. “It’s pretty obvious why, looking at the standings and who we have left on the schedule. I thought they worked hard all game but they brought it to another level in the third period.”
But before North could rally, it faced even more adversity as the Warriors scored less than a minute into the third. Junior Kirk Leach netted a highlight-reel goal, splitting a pair of Rocketeer defenseman and shielding one as curled back in front and popped a shot top shelf to give Foxboro a 3-1 lead with 14:16 to play.
North Attleboro got some life with a power play chance with 11:11 to play and cashed in less than a minute into the man-advantage chance. Tyler Sarro and Dennis Morehouse connected with senior Jack Connolly along the boards in the corner. Connolly curled back to the right circle and fired a wrist shot into the top corner with a screen in front to make it 3-2 on North’s second power play goal of the night.
“The two power play goals were great but the reason they were great is because he didn’t see either shot,” McManama said. “That’s something that we’ve been working on…we’re not just trying to get to the net, we’re trying to take the goalies’ eyes away. So it was refreshing to see it happen.”
With momentum on its side, North Attleboro cashed in less than a minute later. Senior Matt McSweeney drove hard to the net but lost possession. However, the puck popped free right in the middle and senior defenseman Jeff Baker stepped up and blasted a shot through traffic into the back of the net to make it 3-3.
The Rocketeers had a chance to make it three straight with another power play chance at the midway point of the third period but Foxboro goalie Espen Reager came up with a double save on Morehouse and another on a shot from Will Yeomans through traffic.
Leach broke free in the final minute and went on a breakaway that drew a slash and a power play chance for the Warriors with 38 seconds to play. After winning an offensive zone faceoff, Foxboro sophomore Jack Watts bounced on the loose puck, maneuvered past a defenseman and backhanded a shot five-hole but North goalie Nick Digiacomo got just enough of it and it hit off the post and stayed out.
“We tried to keep everything in front of [Reager] but tonight our Achilles heel was our penalty kill,” Cedorchuk said. “I thought we skated with them, we transitioned well with them, and we kept them to the outside for the most part. I really thought we were going to have that one.
“Knowing where we are now and the level of talent we have, we know that we can compete with anyone on our schedule.”
Foxboro opened the scoring just under three minutes into the game with a bit of an unlucky bounce for the Rocketeers. The Warriors were in the midst of a line change and North looked to counter up ice but the puck was inadvertently blocked by the ref and stayed in North’s zone.
Foxboro’s Kyle McGinnis quickly jumped on the puck and connected with Leach, who found some space and blasted a shot into the back of the net.
North had the edge with eight shots on goal in period but Reager was up to the task each time. He first blocked away a chance from Brady Sarro, gloved a shot from McSweeney, and kicked away a rush from Sam Clarke.
The Warriors’ best chance to double its lead came when Watts gloved down a loose puck and found Ronnie MacLellan but his shot was denied by Digiacomo.
The Rocketeers came out flying in the second period and were rewarded with the tying goal less than a minute in. A flurry of chances resulted in a big scrum in front of the net and eventually, it was Connolly that found the puck and the back of the net, Tyler Sarro and Yeomans assisting, to make it 1-1.
But North was whistled for a penalty after Foxboro’s Ryan Jacobs and Josh Bertumen applied pressure. Less than 20 seconds into the man advantage, Leach skated to the right circle and fired a low shot that Watts redirected right in front to regain a 2-1 advantage.
North dominated a solid six-minute stretch in the second period but couldn’t find the back of the net. Clarke, Longa, Connolly, and McSweeney all had good chances come up short. But the Rocketeers were able to ride that momentum into the third and score a pair of goals to tie the game.
“There’s a lot of little things going on this year so you have to look at the positives,” McManama said. “We battled back, we probably played one of our better periods energy wise of the year, and we just have to keep doing that. Every day at practice, we have to keep showing up and getting better. If we compete and work hard, we’re going to be fine.”